For seven years, our residents suffered from rockets being fired at them. Do you know of any other country that is prepared to tolerate such a thing? To not respond when its residents were under daily attack?
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met Sunday in his Jerusalem office with NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and discussed with him the situation in southern Israel and the Gaza Strip since the beginning of Operation Cast Lead.
The Prime Minister described the security situation in the area and the continuing threat to residents of the south, which led the government to decide to embark on the operation, and said, "For seven years, our residents suffered from rockets being fired at them. Do you know of any other country that is prepared to tolerate such a thing? To not respond when its residents were under daily attack?"
NATO Secy.-Gen. Scheffer said that he could understand Israel's desire to defend its residents but expressed concern over the killing of innocents in Gaza. Prime Minister Olmert replied that the State of Israel is doing much in the humanitarian sphere – by opening crossings for the passage of goods into the Gaza Strip and withholding fire if there are tangible concerns that civilians might be hit. "Pilots relate how they refrained from attacking rocket launchers only because there were unidentified people nearby whom they preferred not to shoot at," the Prime Minister responded.
Prime Minister Olmert thanked NATO Secy.-Gen. Scheffer for NATO's cooperation with Israel: "Israel stands behind NATO and fully supports its struggle against terrorism, just as we expect that you will understand us in our struggle against terrorism. The difference between us is that while you are fighting terrorism even if your territory is not in immediate danger, we are defending our territory and our citizens, who are being attacked on a daily basis."
Foreign Affairs Minister Tzipi Livni earlier met on Sunday with the NATO secretary-general. They spoke together about mutual ways to cooperate in a war on terrorism, and discussed actions to prevent the smuggling of weapons into Gaza.
In reaction to Livni's hopes for cooperation in preventing smuggling into Gaza, Secretary-General Scheffer stated that NATO has no plans for a peacekeeping force to supervise any ceasefire in Gaza.
The NATO chief told an audience at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies on Sunday that NATO would be willing to play a peacekeeping role only if there existed a full-scale peace agreement, consent from both sides, and a UN mandate. He predicted that those conditions would not be ripe any time in the near future.